Casper Ruud beats Novak Djokovic to reach Monte Carlo final


Casper Ruud finally got the better of Novak Djokovic, beating the top-ranked Serb 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 on Saturday to set up a Monte Carlo Masters final against two-time champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas won the earlier semifinal against a tiring Jannik Sinner 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to hand the Australian Open champion only his second defeat of the season.

Djokovic double-faulted on match point in his first career defeat in six matches against Ruud. The Norwegian player had never taken a set off Djokovic before, including at last year’s French Open final.

Djokovic trailed 4-1 in the deciding set but held his next serve and broke a nervous-looking Ruud’s serve to love to pull back to 4-3.

At 15-15 in the eighth game, Djokovic turned and shouted an expletive toward someone in the crowd. Chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani urged fans not to call out during a rally and did not issue a verbal warning to Djokovic despite the audible expletive, which was followed by an angry glare.

A sloppy 10th game in the deciding set saw Djokovic trailing love-40 on serve, and the eighth-seeded Ruud received the victory on his third match point.

Ruud and the 12th-seeded Tsitsipas are chasing their first titles of the year and 11th overall.

Sinner, who has three titles in 2024, looked in control in the deciding set when he led Tsitsipas 4-3 with a service game to follow. But he called for a medical timeout during the changeover, and a trainer massaged his right knee and thigh. Although a smiling Sinner shared a joke with the trainer, things got more serious in the next game when Tsitsipas broke his serve at the fifth attempt to level the score.

At the end of the next game, Sinner limped a little and clutched the hamstring area of his left leg then had both legs massaged. His movement was restricted in the ensuing game, and Tsitsipas clinched victory on his first match point when Sinner’s backhand from the back of the court went long as he struggled for balance.

“He is one of the toughest opponents I have faced so far, and to find ways when there weren’t that many, I am proud of that,” Tsitsipas said.

American actress Zendaya, British actor Josh O’Connor and other cast members from the tennis movie “Challengers” were among the crowd enjoying the sunshine at Monte Carlo Country Club. Italian fans crossing the nearby border made Sinner feel at home, but Tsitsipas enjoyed strong support after winning the tournament in 2021 and 2022.

Tsitsipas broke Sinner and held for 3-1 in a commanding first set where he used angles well to disrupt Sinner’s more rhythmical play.

The level of intensity from both players increased in the second set. A long ninth game lasting 13 minutes saw the second-seeded Sinner save five break points before holding to level the match.

He broke Tsitsipas in the first game of the deciding set and held easily.

At this point, another final looked increasingly certain. Sinner was enjoying himself and smiled to his coaching team after winning one point with an audacious sliced drop shot in the fifth game.

But Tsitsipas, who took Djokovic to five sets in the French Open final in 2021, showed trademark endurance and clawed his way back as Sinner started fading.



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